The Tap Off

Everything starts with The Tap Off - your tempo for all things marching percussion

WGI Finals – Closer Look at PSW Finals History

We’re right in the middle of contest season and WGI Finals in Dayton are only about 7 weeks away.  As we get closer to the 25th Finals for PSW, let’s take a look back at the previous 24 seasons.

Make sure to check out our post about PIW finals here.

24 Years, 15 Champions

As I was looking back at the data from previous PSW Championships, the thing that stuck out the most to me was how many different schools have ended the season as WGI Champs, and how many schools have come and gone from prominence over the years.  Take a look below at all of the different schools that have ended as WGI Champs for PSW.  There are 15 different schools that have won and only five schools that have won more than once.


This is a stark comparison to the relationship you see with PIW Finals – where there have only been six different PIW champions, and 5/6 have won multiple times.



Obviously, independent groups and high school groups can’t be compared.  You’re naturally going to have top-tier independent groups that will attract the best players and the best staff, therefore making them in contention for a medal year in and year out.  But it is interesting seeing the differences graphed out regardless.


Dartmouth Dominance

I’ve always known that Dartmouth has a ridiculously successful program.  Back when I was in high school a decade ago, it seemed like Dartmouth won a medal every single year.  Over the past 10 years since I’ve been teaching drumlines, that hasn’t changed either.  After looking at the data, Dartmouth’s dominance was even more impressive than I had originally thought.

Since Dartmouth’s first win in PSW back in 1998, they have medaled every year with the exceptions of:

  • 2003 (did not make finals – maybe they did not compete this year?)
  • 2013 (5th place)
  • 2016 (5th place).

That’s a medal in 16/19 years – which is unbelievable.  I mean, talk about a program that is successful year in and year out.  Not to mention their five WGI Championships, which is more than any other school in history.


Maybe we should all switch to matched grip?

California Controls the 2010s

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last seven years, let me fill you in on how good our friends from California have been in recent years.




Chino Hills has been arguably the best PSW group this decade, followed pretty closely by their neighbors, Ayala.  Arcadia has done well too – to round out the trio of Southern California groups that seem to always be in contention for a medal recently.  In 2016, Chino Hills, Ayala, and Arcadia went 1, 2, 3, in finals to provide a California sweep of the medals.

Fun fact – Chino Hills HS and Ayala HS are only seven minutes away from each other.   Arcadia is just down the road, about 33 minutes.



The only other group that has been able to hang with the California groups recently?  You guessed it.  Dartmouth.


More Balance in the 2000s

The medal count from the 2000s looks a little bit different.  For one, the three California groups mentioned above only have one appearance in the medal count, with Chino Hills getting 3rd place in 2009.  However, California is still well represented by Mission Viejo and Claremont.  There’s some more representation from the Midwest with Avon, Center Grove, and Centerville all doing pretty well in this decade.  As we uncovered earlier, Dartmouth is on top in the medal count and this decade is no exception – Dartmouth medaled in 9/10 years in the 2000s.



The Early Years

When WGI started percussion finals in 1993, there were only seven groups there for finals.  Of those seven, the only school you might still recognize is Father Ryan, who placed 6th that year.  In 1994, finals almost doubled to 13 groups.  By 1996 there were enough schools for two different classes – “Scholastic AA” and “Scholastic A”.  1997 was the first year where you see the class system that we’re familiar with today with World, Open, and A Class.  Today, according to WGI’s website, there are currently 40 PSW groups, 154 PSO groups, and 620 PSA groups!  The amount of growth this activity has seen over the past 24 years has been remarkable.

With the exception of Dartmouth and Mission Viejo, most of the groups in the medal count from the 1990s have not been relevant in recent years.



Take a look at the 1993 WGI Champs – Clovis West HS:



I’m looking forward to WGI Finals in Dayton on April 22nd!  We’ll see how the medal count might change after this season.


Make sure to take a look at our breakdown of PIW Finals and the PIW medal count here.


  1. Great article! Dartmouth did not come to WGI in 2003. I believe their band went to London for a parade that year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


© 2017 The Tap Off

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑